122nd St. between Lexington and Third Aves.
Honoring a Harlem astronaut who died on the Challenger, this sliver of a side lot plays off cosmic allusions. There’s a ring of climbing bars, a helical ladder, a twisty slide, a climbable bumpy half-moon and a jaw-chatteringly real (not bounceproof) seesaw. For after-play errand running, 125th Street’s big-box stores (Payless, Starbucks) are nearby.
Bathroom: Try the restaurants on Lexington or the Metro-North station on 125th Street.
Subway: 4, 5, 6 to 125th Street.
Intergenerational eating: Jimbo’s Hamburger (50 E. 125th St.; 212-423-1900), Patsy’s Pizza (2287 First Ave.; 212-534-9783).
Thompson St. between Spring and Prince Sts.
Open the white swinging gate to access a high, irresistibly serpentine jungle gym. There are two spacious areas for marbles or soft-toss. The summer-only kiddie pool, facing a mural of horses and lions, accommodates young waders and their parents (and, as of last summer, was much less crowded than the Lower East Side pool).
Bathroom: On-site, with changing tables.
Subway: C, E to Spring Street, 1 to Canal Street.
Intergenerational eating: Ben’s Pizzeria (177 Spring St.; 212-966-4494), Cubana Café (110 Thompson St.; 212-966-5366).
River Terrace between Murray and Warren Sts.
With Rockefeller Park playground closed for repairs all summer, go for this shaggy wedge east of two Battery Park City towers. Big jagged rocks form paths and ladders around an upper lawn and a long slide angles down a pebbly hill—it’s like a Jurassic challenge course with a teensy Sheep Meadow on top.
Bathroom: In the tower west of the park, with changing tables and plenty of stalls.
Subway: 1, 2, 3 to Chambers Street.
Intergenerational eating: Pan Latin Café (400 Chambers St.; 212-571-3860), Kitchenette (80 Broadway; 212-267-6740).
SOUTH OXFORD PARK
South Oxford St. near Atlantic Ave., Ft. Greene
Fred Rogers meets M. C. Escher in a formerly weedy lot just past the Atlantic Terminal mall. A thicket of 30-foot-high Plexiglas cattails hiding a spray shower, a rock-climbing wall, and swings makes this a thrilling alternative to Fort Greene Park’s playgrounds. Planners also wedged in a smooth field, two tennis courts, and a gentle path toward Fulton Street.
Bathroom: In Atlantic Terminal.
Subway: 2, 3, 4, 5, B, Q to Atlantic Avenue.
Intergenerational eating: Smoke Joint (87 South Elliot Pl.; 718-797-1011), 67 Burger (67 Lafayette Ave.; 718-797-7150).
Underhill Ave. at Prospect Pl., Prospect Heights
A balance beam that zags like a stock chart, a handball court, slides aplenty, and a wide variety of ladders all reward you for walking a few blocks from Flatbush Avenue and mobbed Prospect Park. There’s a tire swing, clear separation of tot from big-kid zones, and ample seating beneath lots of gracious, shade-providing trees.
Bathroom: In a handsome on-site brick building.
Subway: 2, 3, 4 to Grand Army Plaza.
Intergenerational eating: Tom’s Restaurant, (782 Washington Ave.; 718-783-8576), Ginger Root (702 Washington Ave., 718-857-1274).